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Abuse

I have never been raped or physically assaulted. That can change at any moment. We’ve all heard the stories. We’ve read the statistics. We know the pain and fear of men’s violence against women. All women live with some level of primary (first-person) and/or secondary (vicarious) trauma due to men’s violence, abuse, and sexism. Experiences of abuse and sexism are not isolated. They happen daily for so many women, sometimes multiple times in a day. That’s a painful reality. I recently did a presentation on rape culture to a church group and diverted from my usual script. I spontaneously spoke about my experience working with victims of sexual violence. I shared how that work has exposed me to the deepest level of pain I’ve ever known. I fou... Read more
Anne Voskamp recently wrote this on her blog: “When the prevailing thinking is boys will be boys—girls will be garbage.” When I was growing up, I definitely heard the phrase, “boys will be boys.” Not in my house—I grew up one of three daughters. But it was a cultural message that I internalized at a young age. Usually, “boys will be boys” was used to excuse excessive rough housing, “playful” or “well-intended” violence, or the destruction of toys or furniture. Before I could name the system that made negative, hurtful behavior a positive expression of masculinity, I wondered why grownups (mostly Christians) didn’t seem overly concerned when a boy shoved his crush on the playground or tugged her ponytail... Read more
Our character as human beings is determined by what we do when no one is watching. When no one is watching, many in the church are watching porn. Pornography has been declared a “public health crisis” by political officials. At least a third of US men self-identify as being addicted to it.[1] In April, Time magazine featured a front-page article exposing the harmful impact of porn on society. Despite this, two-thirds of practicing Christians feel no guilt about their porn use.[2] What does this extreme level of consumption (and lack of guilt about it) say about the condition of the church as a whole? For readers unfamiliar with the state of modern porn—it looks less like sex and more like sexual assault. Unlike yesterday’s softcore porn industry, mainstream... Read more
Recently, there has been a lot of conversation on the relationship between complementarianism and abuse. The conversation was reignited when Ruth Tucker released her book, Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife. Since then, many complementarians have critiqued Tucker’s argument that male headship theology allows for and sustains abuse. In response, more moderate complementarians and egalitarians have lent support to Tucker’s thesis with testimony and analysis of their own. I want to be very clear. I believe that male headship theology makes abuse both more possible and more likely. I believe that power differences between functional equals are emotionally, physically, sexually, and spiritually destructive. However, I do not believe that all complementarian men are abu... Read more
I remember how embarrassed I was the day I walked into work with a black eye. I dreaded the questions, knowing I would have to reveal my lost battle with lawn equipment, and worrying that someone might wrongly suspect my husband of abuse. I turned on the office lights, sat down at my desk, and interacted with people all day. No one said anything about my black eye. No one, until my boss privately asked about my injury. I told him the whole story of my wrestling match with a weed eater.  I was relieved that the day’s conversations did not revolve around my black eye, but by evening, it really had me thinking. What if I had been beaten? What would it be like live in fear, to be one of the 5.4 million women in the U.S. who are battered each year?[1] I have recently begu... Read more
Since my first week at Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE), I’ve heard stories from women who have struggled with their faith in God because they were abused by men. These women were emotionally, physically, sexually, and spiritually abused by husbands, fathers, uncles, brothers, pastors, or other men close to them. Their abusers believed that Scripture (and therefore God) gave men authority to monitor, manage, and discipline women. Longing to please God, these women submitted to abusive men, regardless of the cost to themselves. Some nearly lost their lives, others went into hiding. All are deeply wounded. To protect these women, CBE developed a comprehensive privacy policy that predates standards now used by the medical industry. CBE’s first president, Cathie Kroeger, e... Read more
The biblical King David is commonly referred to as a “man after God’s own heart.” The Psalms are filled with his inspiring praises and heart-wrenching lamentations about feeling forgotten and abandoned by his Lord, left to languish in the hands of his enemies. Those passages of despair and righteous anger have given me permission to express my hurt to God, knowing he can handle it. But the character of David is complex, to put it mildly. We also know him as a man who made a series of decisions that caused devastating ripples in his family and in the lives of those around him. David was a violent military leader who destroyed villages when he felt it necessary. He was also charismatic, attractive, and popular with women. We also know that he was a man who fell into a... Read more
This is Part 2 of a two part series on why the issue of domestic abuse is relevant to all people. Check out Part 1.  I used to think that women experiencing domestic violence who really needed help should and would seek it out. But when I met Rachel, this perception of domestic abuse in intimate relationships was challenged. Rachel is a twenty-one year-old woman working toward a college degree. She has a beautiful little girl. Rachel is divorced, and for good reason. “When he hit me, I knew it was bad,” she said. “He would take the car keys, so I couldn’t leave. He’d take my phone, so I couldn’t call for help. He was verbally abusive. He took all of the money I made. He stripped me of everything I had. I was completely at his merc... Read more
This is Part 1 of a two part series on why the issue of domestic abuse is relevant to all people. Check out Part 2.  Do you remember the day you realized that our world is a grimmer place than you once thought it was?  Do you recall when you realized, for the very first time, that not everyone has food to eat every day? Can you picture the painful moment when you discovered that “prince charming” was not always all that, well, charming? Do you remember the day you woke up a little bit heavier in your soul than you were when you went to sleep? I do. I remember when I first become acquainted with that heaviness. This is the heaviness that inevitably comes with the realization of your own privilege—that the world is not fair and you are not the only one... Read more
Over the last few years, I’ve met a lot of people who have begun thinking about biblical equality—either as a result of academic study or through their own experience with the disadvantages women face in the church and world. I am so grateful to the many egalitarian theologians who have painstakingly searched through the original Greek and Hebrew texts to provide academic and scriptural justification for the belief that women are indeed able and called to be leaders in the church. I am also grateful to the women and men who have created spaces for women to be encouraged in their leadership gifts and call. To those who have given their time, energy, and finances to create spaces for women in the church, thank you. To those who have worked to deconstruct the obstacles women fa... Read more

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